Is Time on Your Side?

The Critical Importance of Time Management for Nurse Leaders

How often do you look at your schedule for the upcoming week and feel exasperated? How often are you double, or triple booked? When was the last time you took 30 minutes to eat lunch? How often do you complain that you don’t have a spare minute to visit the restroom? 
When’s the last time you didn’t feel like time was your enemy…. That time was actually on your side? 
In our coaching and consulting practices, we frequently hear from nurse leaders at all levels who struggle with time management. Their calendars are overwhelmed, interruptions are relentless, and they face unprecedented spans of control. To support the success of leaders in the dynamic healthcare environment, mastering time management is a critical skill. 
Nurse Leaders are also facing a never-before-seen increase in their span of responsibilities, record-setting staffing shortages, and unprecedented levels of burnout. According to AONL, the median span of control for Nurse Leaders is 46 direct reports, with 25% of all leaders being responsible for more than 78 direct reports. The demands on nurse leaders in healthcare are immense and multifaceted. Given these diverse responsibilities, effective time management is essential to prevent burnout and ensure optimal performance.

The Challenges of Time Management

Nurse leaders face unique challenges that can complicate time management. According to an article in American Nurse Today, one of the primary challenges is the unpredictable nature of being responsible for care delivery and those who deliver that care.  Emergencies and unexpected issues can disrupt even the most carefully planned schedules. Additionally, the article highlights the burden of administrative tasks, which can consume a significant portion of a nurse leader’s time, detracting from direct patient care and staff engagement.

4 Strategies for Effective Time Management

To address these challenges, nurse leaders can adopt several time management strategies: 

1. Prioritization

As highlighted in this Nursing World article on time management, prioritizing tasks is essential. Nurse Leaders should categorize tasks based on urgency and importance, addressing high-priority items first. This strategy ensures that critical issues are promptly managed, while less urgent tasks are scheduled for later.  By focusing on what matters most, nurse leaders can maintain efficiency and improve overall workflow.

2. Delegation

Effective delegation is a crucial time management strategy. The Administrative Sciences journal highlights that Nurse Leaders often struggle with self-leadership and time management under pressure. By delegating tasks to competent team members, leaders can free up valuable time to focus on strategic and improvement initiatives.   This not only enhances efficiency but also empowers staff and fosters a collaborative work environment, contributing to overall team success.

3.  Scheduling and Planning

Utilizing tools like calendars, to-do lists, planners, and scheduling software can significantly enhance time management for Nurse Leaders.  Our recently published Nurse IMPACT Planner is designed to enhance productivity, prioritizing leader wellness, and ultimately, making a genuine impact on the lives of those they serve. By incorporating these kinds of tools into their daily routines, Nurse Leaders can efficiently organize their responsibilities. Regularly scheduled planning sessions are essential, allowing leaders to anticipate and prepare for upcoming tasks and challenges. This proactive approach ensures a smoother workflow and better handling of critical duties. For me scrutinizing my calendar & planner on Sundays and Wednesdays has proven very successful.

4.  Setting Boundaries

While it may seem provocative, consider eliminating the traditional “open door policy.” Instead, establish set office hours. This strategy allows nurse leaders to be available during specific times, reducing interruptions and enabling focused work during non-office hours. Your team will benefit from your undivided attention at these predetermined times. Setting such boundaries is crucial for a nurse leader’s well-being, protecting personal downtime and helping to maintain overall health and prevent burnout.

Benefits of Effective Time Management

Implementing effective time management strategies offers numerous benefits for nurse leaders and their teams:
  • Improved Patient Care – By managing their time effectively, nurse leaders can devote more attention to supporting the delivery of exemplary patient care, leading to better patient and family outcomes.

  • Enhanced Team Performance – Efficient time management allows leaders to spend more meaningful time supporting and developing their staff.  This focus not only enhances team morale but also boosts productivity, creating a more positive and effective work environment.

  • Reduced Stress and Burnout – Protecting personal downtime and setting boundaries are crucial for maintaining overall health, allowing leaders to recharge and avoid the physical and emotional toll of burnout.  As a result, they perform their roles more effectively, leading their teams with renewed energy and focus.

  • Operational Efficiency – Well-managed time contributes to smoother operations and better resource allocation, ultimately enhancing the overall efficiency of the healthcare facility.

Time management is not just a skill but a lifeline for nurse leaders. It empowers them to balance their multifaceted responsibilities far more effectively. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, mastering this essential skill is crucial for nurse leaders who are passionate about driving positive change and achieving excellence in their organizations.

Ready to Start Taking Charge of Your Time?

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Picture of Lori Armstrong DNP, RN NEA-BC

Lori Armstrong DNP, RN NEA-BC

CEO & Chief Clinical Officer